Christmas naturally brings with it thoughts of family, especially our families of origin. These thoughts are laced with a myriad emotions ranging from tender memories for some to painful memories of loneliness, abandonment, loss and sadness for others. Unlike fleeing the grasp of Herod, we cannot flee our family memories as they remain with us and are part of the fabric of our very being. We have been shaped by them: good, bad or indifferent. Families can be a safe haven of togetherness, a place of fear, anxiety, anger and resentment or a mix of both. What memories do you have of your childhood family? How have those memories shaped your family today?
We have to navigate these family waters as best we can. If we have positive, loving memories of family we have to listen to God’s call to share them with those whose lives we touch. If we are held in bondage to past hurtful memories, we need to find a way to walk with God on a path of healing and release from that pain and heartache. If we find ourselves living with or dealing with problematic or hurtful individuals we have to listen to God’s voice beckoning us to find the best path to tolerance, love and safety. Joseph was not tethered to pride or his self-will. He listened. We have to learn how to listen. From listening he realized that he had to urgently leave a situation of familiarity and walk into the future of the unknown complete with risk, apprehension and fear. At all stages of this journey and others to come, there may have been anxiety in Joseph’s heart but he lovingly and calmly kept things together and did what he needed to do. We need to listen and do what we need to do.
The clear message that Joseph gave his family is that they were together and all were okay. We also have to learn how to listen to that voice of God echoing in our depths, do what we need to do and communicate to those around us, those whom we love, that we are together and it is okay. We are safe here. If we can accomplish this within our families we will be living as God intended a family to live. Life can be crazy, messy, hurtful and sinful. We need a place to put our anchor, to find a bit of rest, to not be judged and to experience love. If we know the beauty of human love it will then be much easier to feel the spark and embrace of Divine Love. But first, we must see healing from past memories, fear and hurts so that we can be available to God to be used for others. Otherwise, past sins and failures will simply be repeated.
We are all called to care for human souls, those wonderful creations made and fashioned by God himself. In building up one another we also build up the Kingdom of God. In protecting, nurturing and tending to our earthly families, we shape the family of God. One of the hardest messages a person can ever hear is that “they are not wanted, are a mistake, or don’t belong or have a purpose.” Families have the power to inflict these kinds of painful wounds on children and other adult family members. These messages are some of the hardest to rally from and heal. Families can easily become abusive both emotionally and physically and are no longer places of refuge and safety.
Even for people in difficult family situations, there is always hope. If a person can see the light shining within, the very light of God, that same light that inspired Joseph to act, then even having heard these hurtful things they can move closer to Divine Love and know that the most important One of all feels much differently than the earthly voices they hear. They can hear God saying within: you are mine, I want you, you are loved, I made you, you do belong and I have great plans for you.
Learn to listen. God is always there, inspiring, directing, uplifting and consoling. Without God’s help, Joseph would not have been successful. We must be humble at all costs and resist all forms of arrogance and self-reliance. No matter how enlightened, on top of things and focused we think we may be, we always walk in dim light and have to learn how to listen. God always needs to be the one to give us direction and this feast of the Holy Family reminds us of this once again. Seek healing for wounds that need healing. Confront your fears and anxiety. Shed the bondage of anger, resentment, pride and arrogance and follow God’s voice to love and safety. Be for others who God is for you, worrying less about what surrounds you and focus more on who surrounds you. Men are called to be nurturers as much as women and both women and men have before them the same goal and mission. Each are called to use their particular gifts and talents, sharing mutual affection, to get where they need to be.
We see who we want to be and where we need to be in the beautiful blueprint given to us in the letter to the Colossians: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts….And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” There is something that rings very true and sounds very “right” as we read these words. Intuitively, we know that this is where we need and want to be. We also know that all of God’s children would be on the path to real security and happiness if this holy blueprint is realized.
While we live in a very imperfect world we must always strive for perfection. Christmas isn’t over yet. It’s just beginning. Light still shines in the darkness and the star still shines. God is hoping that we will allow that star to illuminate our steps and allow the light of His Son to bring light to our darkness. Be humble and be kind. Be patient and bear with one another. All we have to do is get out of our own way, be willing to be led, and learn to listen. May our families become the holy and sacred places they are meant to be! Peace.
Heavenly Father, as you guide and direct all things, inspire me to do what I know I need to do. May I find the wisdom to understand that in order to follow the right road and do the right thing I must step out of the way and learn to listen to you!
Listening is hard and requires humility. There are so many voices telling me that I must do this on my own, that I must succeed on my own terms and have to win, come out ahead and dominate. I am told that if I lose control I will be controlled and if I show signs of weakness I will fail.
Help me Lord, to listen. You are always speaking, guiding and inspiring.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, would not have grown up and fulfilled his mission if his earthly father, Joseph, did not listen. He gave up control so that he could be guided by you. He did not fail.
Inspire me, O Loving God, so that I can be healed of all that has hurt me and love as you love.
Direct me, O Gentle Creator, so that I can be led to your Kingdom and live as you created me to live.
Guide me, O Patient Friend, so that I know that I am uniquely loved and have a special purpose to fulfill.
My family is your family. With our Holy Family as an example to follow, may I create for those I love a safe place to be, to learn to trust and discover themselves. May our home be free of fear and judgment and always filled with an abundance of forgiveness and understanding.
May your Holy Name be always on our lips and your peace always reign within our walls. May we praise you within the community of the church and frequently receive the tender gift of your Son in the Eucharist.
And lastly, may the love we cultivate in our home extend out to those who do not know such love so that the miracle of your birth be known in all corners of your world. Amen.